FROM WIRE REPORTS
The Rev. James Richard Harris of Belle Glade was found guilty last week of performing two sex acts on a 15-year-old boy.
Harris, 64, was accused of drawing in young boys by promising them connections to exclusive football scouts and NFL attention.
He also was found guilty of filming a 14-year-old girl and her boyfriend having sex in his home.
After being found guilty, Harris tried to stuff a handful of white pills in his mouth in an attempted suicide before being apprehended by officers. He was escorted out of the court on a stretcher
Harris faces 80 years in prison for his acts.
He kept a somber expression on Aug. 9 as a court clerk read guilty verdicts for lewd and lascivious battery and five other charges involving minors.
Then the judge told him that he would be going directly to jail. As soon as the words left the judge’s mouth, Harris reached for his bottle of water on the defense table.
‘Oh my God, it’s cynanide’
Deputies immediately lunged toward him, but by the time they tackled Harris, he had stuffed a handful of pills into his mouth.
“Oh, my God, it’s cyanide,” a couple of public defender’s office interns whispered as they stood from their seats in the back of the courtroom.
“Spit it out! Spit it out!” deputies yelled at Harris as they pinned him on his stomach to the floor.
And so ended the three-day trial for Harris, the 64-year-old former Belle Glade minister who for years was a fixture on the sidelines at Glades Central High School’s football games.
Though Harris was charged with the offenses related only to the two teens at the time of his April 2009 arrest, many in the Belle Glade community said he was rumored to have molested some of the area’s up-and-coming football stars for decades.
Harris’ court-appointed attorney Chris Haddad stayed behind until after paramedics wheeled Harris from the courtroom on a stretcher. Harris lay back with his eyes closed, his dress shirt unbuttoned, undershirt damp and his right shoe on the stretcher.
The scene was reminiscent of a case in an Arizona courtroom in late July in which Michael Marin, a former Wall Street trader, killed himself by swallowing cyanide immediately after he was convicted of arson.
Marin, 53, was caught on video, slumping forward, head in hands, and he appeared to swallow something that had been hidden in his fingers. He also drank from a water bottle. Marin went into convulsions and was pronounced dead in the courtroom.
Harris will be sentenced on Oct. 5.
The Palm Beach Post was used in compiling this report.